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Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019
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State officials support Buckhorn plan to demolish old Bro Bowl

— State historic preservation officials say they support Mayor Bob Buckhorn's plan to demolish the historic Bro Bowl skateboard park in the southeast corner of Perry Harvey Sr. Park and rebuild a replica farther north.

Timothy Parsons, the deputy state historic preservation officer, offered his division's support in a letter to the city May 21.

Although the state would prefer the city leave the Bro Bowl alone, Parsons said the city's proposal to rebuild the site elsewhere in the park would work if the city included:

♦ A state historic marker at the site of the original Bro Bowl, which won a place on the National Register of Historic Places last fall.

♦ Interactive interpretive materials that use a laser-scanning survey by the University of South Florida.

♦ Consideration of funding a museum detailing the “history, development and significance of the sport of skateboarding in Tampa.”

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has never hidden his disdain for the 36-year-old graffiti-covered skate park known as the Bro Bowl.

The skate park, built by the city under former mayor Bill Poe, won a spot on the National Register of Historic Places last October — much to the consternation of the city and the Tampa Housing Authority, which have planned since 2006 to reinvent the park as part of the housing authority's Encore development.

In his State of the City speech last month, Buckhorn declared: “I'm sorry. A concrete skate bowl pales in comparison to the history of our African-America community.”

The city has set aside $6.47 million to remake Perry Harvey Sr. Park. The housing authority will add $2 million from $30 million in federal grants earmarked to add more housing at Encore over the next five years.

Earlier this month, Buckhorn sent state historic preservation experts a report outlining the city's four options for dealing with the Bro Bowl as part of the overall plan for Perry Harvey Sr. Park. Buckhorn makes it clear in a letter to the state Division of Historic Resources that he believes the best option is to demolish the skate bowl and build a replica at the northern end of the park in the shadow of Interstate 4.

“As part of the mitigation, the city proposed to accommodate the needs and interests of the variety of skaters found in the area by expanding the skating elements provided within the new park project,” the mayor wrote on May 15.

The new elements would appeal to a broader range of skaters than the bowl now attracts, Buckhorn said.

The study by Janus Research suggests getting the University of South Florida to conduct a laser-based survey of the Bro Bowl in order to copy every curve and bump. The old bowl would then be torn out and rebuild with signs and markers detailing its previous incarnation.

The plan now must go before the U.S. Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.

If it fails to win approval, the mayor said he will support walling the Bro Bowl off from the rest of Perry Harvey Sr. Park to reduce potential conflicts between skateboarders and visitors to Leader's Row — an outdoor exhibit detailing the history of Central Avenue, long the commercial heart of Tampa's black community.

The divider would be a curved 8-foot-high stucco wall running along the east and south sides of the Bro Bowl. The wall would have vines running up it to soften the look and “to reduce opportunities for graffiti,” the report said.

The Encore side of the wall would include a mural of Central Avenue.

This plan comes with a major hitch, however: The Bro Bowl, which has operated by skate-at-your-own-risk for decades, would have to operate under the city's stricter rules in force at other city skate parks.

Parks officials would stop by to make sure everyone was wearing helmets and pads and had their city-issued rec cards.

“Proper behavior will be enforced, and graffiti will not be allowed,” the report stated. “This is consistent with the management of the other skating facilities within the city.”

The remaining options are: uproot Bro Bowl and move it north or document it for posterity then tear it out.

Trying to move the concrete bowl, run and moguls could prove complicated and expensive, the report said. The bowl would have to be cut into chunks to be moved, and there's no guarantee that the pieces would survive the move intact. If they did, it's not clear that they could be repositioned at the new site in the same way they had been on the old one, the report said.

Documenting then demolishing the Bro Bowl would let the city build Leaders' Row where it now stands.

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Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO

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